Nashville housing advocates are calling out Mayor John Cooper for what they say is a failure to follow one of his key campaign messages.
Nearly 100 people rallied outside the mayor’s office on Tuesday to critique the mayor for impounding nearly $5 million in affordable housing grants, which had been intended to help nonprofits build 131 units.
“Keep your promise!” was one of several chants that broke out.
“Mayor Cooper, you promised to prioritize affordable housing development, and the community is counting on you to restore that $4.5 million cut,” said Sarah Brown, a medical student who volunteers in homeless outreach. “Keep your promise.”
And Monica Rainey, a member of the group Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH), reminded Cooper of his own words. While campaigning, he said he would work to “make a Nashville that works for everyone” and set a goal of making “affordable housing central to everything we do.”
“Restore the funding now,” Rainey said. “We want the money back.”
She noted that while campaigning, Cooper invited NOAH members to hold him accountable. Advocates for the homeless also took part, and the group A Voice issued a statement Tuesday.
The mayor issued a statement while the demonstration was taking place, saying that he sympathizes.
“Simply put, we can’t write a check for money we currently don’t have,” the mayor wrote. “The city is working constantly to identify revenue sources to make sure we fund the delayed Barnes grants as soon as possible.”
The Metro Council, meanwhile, moved Tuesday night to salvage a smaller affordable housing program.
Members said they realized that a pilot program they created 3 years ago was about to expire at year’s end. It allows developers to be reimbursed up to $20,000 for each affordable unit they build.
At least three companies have taken advantage and received more than $248,000 from Metro.
Council members say there’s still money available and time to apply. They approved a three-month extension and plan evaluate the program in early 2020.
More complete details about Metro’s use of the funds were not immediately available.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misspelled Sarah Brown’s name.